Though I haven’t seen a hard copy yet, I wrote a column for this week’s Mail. I think it will be a weekly, or at least fortnightly thing. Here’s what it said.
I’ve just got back from a weekend in Wellington. Getting out of Christchurch reminds you (if you need any reminding) just how serious the challenge to rebuild Christchurch will be. The central city was bustling, filled with all sorts of shops and the colourful characters that make them vibrant places to be.
However, it’s not all good. I went out for a friend’s birthday on Saturday, to a bar on Courtenay Place (it’s like the Strip, but longer.) I left around midnight, and the scene was quite alarming. Hundreds of mainly young, mainly drunk, people all through the centre of Wellington.
The scary thing is, a number of people seem to think that the economic salvation of Christchurch lies at the bottom of a pint glass. Prominent central-city property owner Anthony Gough has argued publicly that his bars on the Strip should be opened as fast as possible, complaining about delays he sees as caused by the authorities. Now I am by no means a prude, (though my favourite bar in town was the now-destroyed Christchurch Temperance Society) but I think that we should be having a discussion – at the city, suburb and community level – about the role which alcohol plays in our rebuilt city.
Christchurch – amongst other New Zealand towns – has a serious problem with young people and alcohol. As someone who lived right in the heart of town, it was apparent to me, multiple nights a week. Alcohol is a wider societal problem for the whole country, but as we look to rebuild a better urban environment, we should be thinking about how we can integrate pubs and bars into a framework that allows people to enjoy themselves, whilst also minimising the harm that drinking causes.
ALSO: on that note – council has just approved a temporary entertainment hub, in tents, in Hagley Park.